Religious Resistance to Family Law Reform in the US

32 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2009 Last revised: 2 Dec 2009

Date Written: June 24, 2009


This article traces the religious roots of American family law and the way that those roots still impact possibilities for and reaction to reform of law and the ways in which they shape contemporary politics in the United States. Traditional or fundamentalist religious conceptions of the family are incompatible with the three significant 'revolutions' in social and cultural attitudes about women and gender equality that occurred in the United States during the latter part of the 20th century: the gender equality revolution; the sexual revolution; and the no-fault divorce revolution. As the changes in attitudes and behavior associated with these social movements were codified into laws governing the family, opposition and backlash have emerged. Today there are two ways in which this resistance is mobilized: the 'Value Voter,' whose influence in politics has greatly increased, particularly in the 2004 elections, and the social and academic movement known as the 'Marriage Movement.' The Marriage Movement is made up of religious conservatives, but also includes secular advocates for bringing back a more stable, less divorce friendly family.

Keywords: family, religion, critical theory, gender equality, law reform

Suggested Citation

Fineman, Martha Albertson, Religious Resistance to Family Law Reform in the US (June 24, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Martha Albertson Fineman (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-712-2421 (Phone)

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